I turn off the air compressor powering the sprayer, and stretch my back. After days of painting the building that will house the Handcraft Emporium, I’m exhausted and sore.
I’m Nixy, by the way. Formerly of Houston, Texas where I worked in the posh Gates Fine Art Gallery, I now live in Lilyvale, Arkansas. I’d come here to help my Aunt Sherry Mae Stanton Cutler out of a fix, and decided to make the town my home, too.
My aunt has macular degeneration. She gets along fine, especially with the help of her five housemates who live together in the Stanton ancestral farmhouse. Collectively known as the Silver Six, there’s ex-Navy Nurse Maise, her sister, Earth Mother Aster, and Elegant Eleanor. Two men also share their space, Dapper Dab and Fix-It Fred. But Sherry is my only living family, and belonging to a community of people who truly care about each other has great appeal. So does the lack of big city traffic!
The Silver Six must’ve heard the compressor fall silent for the seniors burst through the door dividing the workroom from the store proper where they’d been cleaning.
“Nixy, stow that gear right this minute!” Masie barks.
“That’s right, child,” my aunt sings. “It’s past time to get ready for your date.”
“With the most eligible bachelor in town,” Eleanor adds.
“My lavender water spray is ready in case you have a case of nerves,” Aster says.
“Humph.” That’s Fred. “Be sure you order expensive. No eatin’ like a bird. The boy can afford it.”
“We’ll finish cleaning up and putting away the spray painter,” Dab assures me.
Okay, so the prospect of seeing Detective Eric Shoar has me bounding up the interior staircase from Fred’s workroom to the apartment I’ll soon call home. Eric has a deep dreamy voice, and we’ve been seeing each other casually, but this is to be our first formal date. I’m psyched.
The Six and I had already repainted, refinished the hardwood pine floors, and cleaned the apartment until the place squeaked. I’d brought my dinner outfit, and my few bath, hair, and makeup products so I could get ready here, but I’ll spend the night at the farmhouse. Probably after giving the Silver Six a full report on my date. Eric and I had enjoyed a subtle sizzle each time we were together, and I fervently hope the sizzle doesn’t fizzle.
I peel myself out of the disposable paint coveralls—hood and booties included. The previous renters left a magnificent claw-foot tub fitted with a shower, and the water pressure is heavenly. I dry with an ultra-fluffy towel, rush through the makeup thing, and blast my blah-brown hair with the blow dryer. It won’t dry completely before my date, but I’ll leave it falling to my shoulders instead of confining it in the customary ponytail. With luck my locks won’t frizz, just wave.
I don my outfit pieced together from my super dressy gallery-opening clothes and pieces I’d bought here in town. Navy blue linen pants with a flowy off-white, scoop-neck blouse. I’d sworn off pantyhose, but slip my feet into navy wedge sandals. Eric doesn’t exactly tower over me, but at only five-foot three, I can use the boost in height.
I snag the matching clutch purse and open the bedroom door to find the ladies of the Silver Six waiting.
“Ready for inspection?” Maise asks, though she’ll inspect whether I agree or not.
Aster peers at my face. “Nixy, you only have mascara on one eye.”
Eleanor and Sherry nod.
“Rats.” I do an about face, correct the problem and come back out. “Now do I look okay?”
“Beautiful, child,” Aunt Sherry declares.
“Come on down, missy,” Fred shouts up the stairs. “Your date is here.”
I turn to the upper apartment door, when Eleanor speaks. “Nixy, I do believe your hair—”
“Needs fluffing,” Aster finishes. She fiddles with the back of my hair for a full thirty seconds. “That’ll do.”
Then she spritzes me with lavender oil water before they all follow me downstairs.
The restaurant, Adam Daniel’s, is a rustic modern place nestled in a circle of pine trees. Eric has the prime rib, I have the petite filet mignon, and we share a divine slice of banana icebox cake.
After some steamy kisses, Eric is walking me to the farmhouse porch when he stops and brushes his palm across the back of my head.
“Hold still, Nixy. I think you have a moth in your hair.”
“Did you get it?”
A pause. “Uh, no.”
“I’ll brush it free later.”
I can’t brush the moth free because it isn’t a moth. It’s a thin streak of white paint. I sigh and shrug. Eric has seen me look worse.
And the bonus? We don’t find a dead body during our date. Always a plus!
Paint the Town Dead is the second book in the Silver Six Crafting mystery series, published by Penguin Random House, September 2016.
From the national bestselling author of Basket Case comes the second mystery starring the crafty and cantankerous Silver Six.
Leslee Stanton Nix—aka “Nixy”—thought moving to small-town Lilyvale, Arkansas, would be about as thrilling as watching paint dry. But keeping up with her retired Aunt Sherry and her troublemaking housemates— collectively known as the Silver Six—has proven to be as exciting as it is exasperating.
To kick off the grand opening of their craft shop, the Handcraft Emporium, Nixy and the Silver Six invite Doralee Gordon to teach a gourd painting class. Doralee’s spirit gets squashed when her ex-husband crashes the class with his new fiancée, but things really get messy when the bride-to-be later turns up dead. Now it’s up to Nixy and the Silver Six to use their melons to find the killer—before someone else gets painted out of the picture. . .
# # # # # # # # # # #
About the author
Nancy Haddock is an award-winning and national bestselling author of mystery romance. Basket Case is her first book in the Silver Six Crafting Mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime, and the second book, Paint the Town Dead, was released in early Sept. 2016. Her earlier books, also with Berkley, are La Vida Vampire, Last Vampire Standing, and Always The Vampire, featuring Cesca, aka Gidget with fangs, and are set in Haddock’s current hometown, St. Augustine, FL. Nancy draws on historic wealth, southern culture, and the plain old quirkiness of places and people for her books. She lives with her husband and rescue dog Baron. Connect with Nancy at www.nancyhaddock.com.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Paint the Town Dead. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end September 14, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!